Justice Mussarat Hilali takes oath as the first woman to become acting Chief Justice of Peshawar High Court, at KP Governor House on Saturday.—Dawn
Justice Mussarat Hilali takes oath as the first woman to become acting Chief Justice of Peshawar High Court, at KP Governor House on Saturday.—Dawn

PESHAWAR: Justice Mussarat Hilali was on Satur­day sworn in as the first female chief justice of the Peshawar High Court — the acting charge she will hold till the appointment of a permanent incu­mbent by the Judicial Com­mission of Pakistan (JCP).

Justice Hilali, who was appointed to the new position by President Arif Alvi on March 29, was administered the oath by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Haji Ghulam Ali at a simple ceremony. Besides other judges of the high court, lawyers, caretaker ministers and government officials attended the ceremony, which was held at Governor House.

PHC chief justice Qai­ser Rashid Khan retired on March 30 following which the senior puisne judge Justice Rooh-ul-Amin Khan served as acting chief justice for a day.

Justice Hilali, who is the most senior judge of the high court, is likely to be appointed as the first permanent female chief justice once the JCP holds a meeting for that purpose. Her retirement is due on Aug 7.

The JCP has yet to schedule a meeting under Article 175-A of the Constitution for appointment of a regular chief justice of the high court.

On March 30, JCP member from KP Ahmad Farooq Khattak had sent a letter to the Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, asking him to immediately convene a meeting of the JCP for appointment of the senior most judge as the PHC chief justice in accordance with the law, norms and settled principles.

If appointed as regular chief justice, Justice Hilali will be the second female judge to serve on that post in any of the high courts across Pakistan. Earlier in 2018, Justice Syeda Tahira Safdar was appointed as the chief justice of Balochistan High Court.

Born in Peshawar on Aug 8, 1961, Justice Hilali was a prominent human rights activist and had also served as vice chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

A close associate of Late Asma Jahangir, Justice Hilali was believed to be an outspoken human rights defender, who had raised voice for fundamental rights of people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

She had received her law degree from Khyber Law College, University of Peshawar, and was enrolled as an advocate of the district courts in 1983. Later, she was enrolled as an advocate of the high court and that of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1988 and 2006, respectively.

She had remained one of the most active lawyers from KP in the famous movement for the restoration of judiciary.

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2023

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